Well this is my first trip report on airliners and I must say have been looking forward to writing this! I had been in Russia in St.Petersburg for two weeks back in 2008 and decided to take a day trip to Moscow with the main aim of trying the TU-154!
Russian airlines seem to still be very backward when issuing tickets and ETKTs seem unheard of except on SU! I decided to book with FV (Rossiya / Pulkovo airlines) as their ticket office was most convieniently located in town. They codeshared with SU on the SVO route so decided trying two Russian airlines in a day would be a bonus.
Queuing in Russia still leaves a lot to be desired, however after an hour of pushing and shoving, mutterings and cursing in Russian, I had my ticket. Here's how the trip panned out.
Airline: Aeroflot (SU)
Seat / Class: 8F / Y
Flight Time: 54 minutes
The scheduled departure time for my SU sector was 11:05AM so I decided that I would need to leave a good while to get to the airport as I was living on the outer-most part of St.Petersburg and the airport would be a good 45 minute drive by taxi. After having negotiated a price of 800 Roubles (around 18GBP) I was on the way to Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo 1, the domestic terminal. Before entering the airport I decided to take a few pictures of the morning's apron action, including the aircraft that would carry me to Moscow, however for some reason I can't upload either from my computer directly or through flickr.com.
I will include a link for anyone that is interested in looking at the pictures from this quick day trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34692999@N02/
Upon entering, all passengers must have their baggage screened by security. After the formalities were complete, I made my way through the maze of LED 1 to the check-in counters for the FV/SU codeshare flight to Moscow. Again, before entering this 'secure area' bags are once again screenes, along with tickets and passports being checked (even for a domestic flight!). Check in was smooth, and I was assigned 8F, an exit row window seat, and the third row of Aeroflot's economy cabin. Although the flight is advertised as being operated by Aeroflot Nord, a subsidary company of Aerflot, a mainline A319 was assigned to the route for today.
With the help of my Priority Pass, I was soon seated in the Business Salon, which Aeroflot and other airlines provide use of to their business class and frequent travellers. The food offerings were pretty poor, with some chocolate, crisps and other finger food available, however the bar was, as one would expect in Russia well stocked! Although it was a departure before 12AM, I decided that a few Gin and Tonics wouldn't hurt, along with a few Russian beers to kick start this exciting day of flying.
Boarding was soon called, and I made my way down to the boarding gate to be bussed to the aircraft. The bus, which was designated for business class passengers, was relatively empty, and we quickly made our way out to the VPBDN, who sat gleaming in the morning sunshine. Upon boarding, I realised it was a very full flight, and had trouble stowing my small carry-on wheelie bag. A steward was quick to assist, and spoke perfect English.
Once boarding was complete, and pre-start checklists complete, the Captain made an announcement with routing and flying time, which today would be slightly less than an hour, at a cruise level of 34,000 Feet. Aircraft are not pushed back at LED's domestic terminal, and after engine start we made a quick turn onto the taxiway.
Takeoff was relatively powerful, and the A319 used a fair amount of the bumby runway at LED, we soared into the sunny Russian sky, and once reaching 12,000 seat belt signes were extinguished, and cabin crew released. The service consisted of a ham and cheese croissant in a box similar to that of BA's former all day deli style service, including a bag of fresh fruit and some orange juice. The crew later came round with a tea and coffee service. Once this was complete and all rubbish cleared away, we were well into our descent into Sheremetyevo, one of Moscow's three airports, and Aeroflot's major hub.
Landing was very smooth, and we taxied past numerous other Russian aircraft and airlines until reaching our remote parking stand to be bussed into the terminal.
Once landside, I had just over 3 hours to burn before my return flight. Outside the domestic terminal, there is an ex SU IL-18 aircraft, still with its CCCP registration, on display to visitors. This amused me for some while, again taking numerous photos, which as mentioned, I for some reason am having trouble uploading.
After returning in from the monument, I quickly visited the Rossiya ticket counter to pay the upgrade fee from Y-C. It cost around 6,500 RUB (roughly £145), well worth it for a ride up front on a TU-154!
You are not allowed to proceed through security until your flight is advertised as checking-in. This presented me with another hour to burn landside, and a waste of valuable lounge time! I found a small bar, and had a few Russian beers to pass the time, whilst listening to my Ipod and getting more and more excited about what was to come!
Airline: Rossiya / Pulkovo Airlines (FV)
Seat / Class: 2A / C
Flight Time: 1 hour 16 minutes
After finishing with security and check-in formalities, and being presented with boarding pass and lounge invitation, the journey back had begun! It took me a while to find the lounge, as it was extremely badly signposted, however finally discovered the secret door. Once inside, I felt like I was in a portercabin, and definitely not a business class lounge. To this day, it remains probably the worst in lounge memory!
Inside there was a small attended bar, and a cleaning lady hovering at the door. I was scolded for not realising that tongs were available for the 'butterbrodi' which are like open finger sandwiches, however the lady behind the bar turned out to be very nice and served many a drink during my short stay. It is clearly an airport run lounge, as everything you order or take is noted on a piece of paper along with your flight number and name - presumably billed back to the carrier. After discovering yet another door, which led to a smoking room with views over the apron, I settled myself down and began chatting to a Russian lady who was travelling on the same flight.
Through a mix of english and russian, we had quite a nice chat, until coming onto the subject of her daughter, and would I like to meet her... Fortunately, the flight was soon called and gave room for escape, however this was not to be, the very same lady was sitting in 3A directly behind me, for the trip back to LED. We carried on chatting on the bus on the way out, me telling her how excited I was to be flying on the TU-154 for the first time, her mind clearly still on other things!
Upon boarding, I was met by the Purser for the flight, who was dressed, along with the other Stewardesses in white gloves, taking the feel of flying back to what I'm sure were the good old days. I was lucky enough to start talking to the dispatcher, who took me up for a cockpit visit... Oh the aqua! The very friendly team of 3 on the flight deck chatted to me in broken English for roughly 5 minutes, until I returned to my plush seat with around 50" pitch, for the quick hop north.
Champagne was brought upon request (by this time I was getting rather merry) and we soon pushed back, for the short taxi to the active runway. The engines spooled up, and the Tupolev used hardly any runway before shooting into the air! Service began with yet more champagne, before the meals were distributed.
The catering was suberp, 5 individual dishes with a selection of cold meats, cheeses, salad, fresh fruit and a desert. After the meal I ordered a gin and tonic, and was served a minature vodka with sprite (the apparent Russian equivilant), followed by a couple of beers before landing. I have to say the memory of landing is particually hazy, as is the exit through the terminal.
After jumping into an airport cab, and 800 RUB later, I was back at the flat in St. Petersburg, after what can be described as an unforgettable day of flying. After one last night with friends in St. Petersburg, it was back to the airport the following day for the flight home to London.
Thanks for reading, comments and suggestions of course appreciated. If anyone has any advice for uploading photos it would be much appreciated.